By Erik Bacharach

Nicole Saavedra is the sports planner for USA TODAY NETWORK—Tennessee.

What made you interested in sports journalism?

I always wanted to write. I knew I wanted my career to include writing. As I went through school, got to high school and started to follow sports a lot more closely, I realized you could tell so many stories through sports. That really made me interested in pursuing this as a career.

At what point did you shift toward editing?

When I was in Athens, I was a high school preps reporter (for the Athens Banner-Herald), which was my first job out of college, and then moved into an editing role. I think probably a few years into being the high schools reporter, I just realized I liked tackling big projects. I liked the planning aspect and that was a lot of fun for me. So when I realized with editing you got to do a lot of those things, it seems like a logical transition.

Why did you want to be a diversity fellow?

I wanted to expand my leadership skills, managing skills, learn from other people who had been through a similar process of going from a writer to an editor and all the different responsibilities and decisions that come with that.

What did you take from the diversity weekend in Nashville?

I liked getting to know the rest of the class and hearing their stories. It was really cool to get to know people from different parts of the country who have had very different experiences. It was fun to get to know them and then, for me, I think the biggest benefit of the weekend was, I just loved learning from everybody. Then doing the presentation, I was super nervous about it and then getting through it and realizing that I could stand up in front of multiple people and make a presentation, that was really helpful to me and it’s made me more confident, I think, for when I’ll have to do that moving forward.

What is your greatest professional achievement?

I feel like I’ve been able to cover some really cool events. I was the editor when Georgia went to the national championship. So managing that experience and that coverage was a really big challenge and a lot of fun. I think when you get through it, it’s like a sigh of relief. Like, we did what we wanted to do and it was successful on our end as a paper.

Who are some people who have helped you grow in your career?

I feel like I’ve been really lucky to work for a lot of great people, so I could name a ton. I started in the high school program with the (Orlando) Sentinel, so learning from all of those guys there was great. Tim Stephens was one of the leaders of that program when he was in Orlando. Throughout every stage of my career so far, he’s been really helpful.

When I was in Athens, I worked for three really, really great editors, Chris White, Rachel Bowers, Fletcher Page, and they all helped me as well. And now being here and having spent a year working for (USA TODAY NETWORK—Tennessee sports director) Dave (Ammenheuser) and that whole group, I feel like I’ve just worked for so many great people and I’ve learned something from each one of them.

Who has been your favorite person (or people) to interview?

I covered women’s basketball and I covered gymnastics at Georgia. A lot of those conversations were a lot more in-depth than you would get in a larger media room. And so that was always cool to talk with them and really get their perspective on how they were leading their teams and building their programs. I always enjoyed when I had the chance to go over there and talk with those coaches.

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